The Women In My Family Don’t Cry

I have a history of breast cancer in my family. 

My grandmother had it, my mom had it and I was diagnosed at 28. 

I also have a family history of concealing feelings, of sweeping things under the rug, and pushing through instead of processing.

Don’t get me wrong many of the lessons I’ve learned in life have come from the women in my family.

They are outspoken, intelligent, independent, unapologetically themselves, and strong… but what does “strong” mean anyway?

My grandmother was my best friend, our matriarch, the blueprint, our fearless leader who raised seven children alone after my grandfather’s death. She imparted so much wisdom and was always the picture of grace and strength. 

I never saw my grandmother cry.

In fact, I never saw any of the women in my family cry until I was 26-years old when my grandmother passed. It was like the levies broke and the floodgates opened.

No one knew how to really comfort each other, no one had the right words. But they were all… so…”strong.”

The women in my family don’t cry.

The only other time I’ve ever seen my mom cry was when I was diagnosed. It was the same piercing cry she cried when my grandmother passed. It’s not just one of those cries you hear, but one you feel in the pit of your stomach.

And so I did what I’d seen my whole life. 

I held my tears in and made sure she was OK. 

I provided comfort in a time when I needed comforting. I didn’t know that crying was OK. I couldn’t really display something I had never really seen demonstrated.

Because…well…

The women in my family don’t cry.

They often bear burdens instead of casting them.

They smile instead of sending an SOS.

They endure, they grieve in silence, they’re… ”strong.”

So, I wanted to be strong like them, but being that kind of strong was exhausting. That kind of strong led to tear-stained pillows, silent cries in the shower, and an extra five minutes in the car to put on my brave face.

That kind of strong measures strength in how much you can carry; in how well you can mask hurt. 

That kind of strong proved too much for me.

But the women in my family don’t cry.

So I’ve decided that my daughter will see me cry and she will still think I’m supermom because my kind of strength is vulnerable, it’s honest, it allows others to help me bear the load, it gives my daughter permission to cry.

Because my daughter’s story will be different. 

And she’ll be able to say that “the women in my family DO cry, but they don’t drown in those tears they deal and heal.”

That’s strength!

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